RECORD sunshine in April and May has prompted Bodnant Garden's spectacular laburnum arch to bloom early.

This is the earliest the 140-year-old golden arch has flowered in a decade.

The arch reached full flower on May 15, almost a week earlier than last year and two weeks earlier than in 2010.

North Wales Chronicle:

Laburnum arch at Bodnant Garden North Wales. Picture: National Trust Images-Arnhel de Serra

Only a handful of gardeners can view its beauty at present as the garden is closed in line with government guidelines.

The 55m-long archway – believed to be the longest and oldest of its kind in Britain – is the most anticipated highlight in the garden’s calendar. It normally attracts 50,000 visitors at its peak.

Adam Salvin, assistant head gardener at Bodnant Garden, said: “I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the laburnum burst into flower every year for 23 years. We usually anticipate the bloom towards the end of May, but thanks to the glorious April sunshine the flowers have developed much earlier than an average year. When the arch fully bloomed on May 15, it was very unusual.

“Although formal records don’t stretch back that far, it could even be the earliest I’ve seen it flower in 20 years.”

Over the next two weeks, Bodnant Garden will stream 'slow tv' video from the arch on Facebook and Instagram.

They will also host a Twitter Q&A session with the assistant head gardener.

William Greenwood, general manager, said: "It’s a real shame people won’t be able to experience it this year, but we’re doing our best to bring the arch to people at home.

"We hope by sharing the experience virtually, people will have the opportunity to tune into the sights and sounds of the arch – busy with bees – whether it’s after a long shift at work, during a home-schooling lesson or just for a few moments of escape.”

As well as flowering earlier this year, the archway has also produced shorter racemes – the ‘droplets’ of yellow flowers.

Mr Salvin added: "We’ve been monitoring the arch closely. Although not obvious to the general eye, this year’s racemes are about several centimetres shorter than we would expect, probably due to a lack of rain over the past couple of weeks. But it’s still an amazingly uplifting display.”

While the arch needs little or no tending while in bloom, the gardeners are continuing with essential tasks such as weeding and caring for plants in the glasshouse so that the garden will look its best when it reopens.